Here is a selection of President Reagan's comments on the sale of arms to Iran and the diversion of profits to the Nicaraguan rebels since the story of the arms sales broke in the U.S. press on Nov. 6, 1986.
Nov. 6, 1986 Signing ceremony:
"The speculation, the commenting and all, on a story that came out of the Middle East . . . has no foundation. . . . All of that is making it more difficult for us in our effort to get the other hostages free."
Nov. 13 Nationally televised speech:
"The charge has been made that the United States has shipped weapons to Iran as ransom payment for the release of American hostages in Lebanon, that the United States undercut its allies and secretly violated American policy against trafficking with terrorists. Those charges are utterly false. The United States has not made concessions to those who hold our people captive in Lebanon. And we will not. The United States has not swapped boatloads or planeloads of American weapons for the return of American hostages. And we will not."
Nov. 19 Nationally televised press conference:
"I understand this decision (to sell arms to Iran) is deeply controversial and some profoundly disagree with what was done. . . . But I deeply believe in the correctness of my decision. I was convinced then, and I am convinced now, that while the risks were great, so, too, was the potential reward. . . . I don't think a mistake was made."
Nov. 25 Introducing Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III, who revealed the
diversion of profits to the contras :
"I was not fully informed on the nature of one of the activities undertaken in connection with this initiative. This action raises serious questions of propriety. . . . I believe our policy goals toward Iran were well founded. However, the information brought to my attention yesterday convinced me that in one aspect, implementation of that policy was seriously flawed."
Nov. 26 Interview with Time magazine:
"There is bitter bile in my throat these days. I've never seen the sharks circling like they are now with blood in the water. What is driving me up the wall is that this wasn't a failure until the press got a tip from that rag in Beirut and began to play it up. . . .
"Lt. Col. North was involved in all our operations: the Achille Lauro, Libya. He has a fine record. He is a national hero. . . .
"This whole thing boils down to a great irresponsibility on the part of the press. . . .
"I think we took the only action we could have in Iran. I am not going to disavow it. I do not think it was a mistake. No, it has not worked out the way we hoped. But I don't see anything I would have done differently."
Dec. 7 Radio address:
"It's obvious that the execution of these policies was flawed and mistakes were made. . . . It was not my intent to do business with Khomeini, to trade weapons for hostages nor to undercut our policy of anti-terrorism."
Dec. 17 Statement to the press:
"There is an urgent need for full disclosure of all the facts surrounding the Iranian controversy."
Jan. 27, 1987 State of the Union address:
"I have one major regret. I took a risk with regard to our action in Iran. It did not work, and for that I assume full responsibility. The goals were worthy . . . But we did not achieve what we wished and serious mistakes were made in trying to do so."
Feb. 24 Asked at a photo opportunity if he approved the initial
Israeli arms shipment to Iran:
"It's possible to forget."